Poor old Vince. He could have said he was declaring war on 'terror', or 'drugs', or 'benefit cheats', and he may well have been praised to the rafters, despite the inherent ridiculousness of those wars and their unwinnable nature. But that would have been all right. Unwinnable wars against abstract fears concocted by the panicmongers in the press are fine; an unwinnable war against the panicmongers in the press are shocking, disgraceful and completely out of hand.
There has been an idea mooted in the past few hours that ministers should be impartial, somehow objective, possibly looking at stuff in a completely neutral way. It's a lovely idea, but I think there's a little problem with it: these people spend their entire lives as political beings, as partial rather than impartial, as partisan proponents of a particular way of thinking; it's more than a bit hopeful, to say the least, to imagine that they will suddenly discover a calm objectivity from somewhere as soon as they're elected to the power that they've craved and sought throughout their entire careers.
No, maybe it's not that, either. Maybe it's just that Cable has reacted as a human being rather than an automaton. Maybe it's that he didn't play the game properly. You're meant to maintain the artifice of being this impartial, objective creature when you're a minister, despite your inherent prejudices and allegiances; what Cable did wrong was to drop the mask for a minute. That was mistake - not in what he said, or his sentiments, or anything like that, but in the moment of not keeping up that level of deception towards the general public. Instead of coming out with a load of bluster to pretend he was impartial when in reality everyone knew he wasn't, he just came out and said what he really thought. And that is seen as dreadfully wrong.
Then again, though Jeremy Hunt isn't spectacularly impartial. And David Cameron can say it's 'delicious' that the BBC are facing up to cutbacks, for example. So what's the difference? They are allowed to speak out in public about their prejudices, and that's perfectly fine. But Cable does it in private to someone he's never met before, and all of a sudden he's made a right old shocker. It doesn't seem entirely consistent, but there it is. Back Murdoch publicly, and you can still be impartial; attack Murdoch privately, and you can't be impartial.
It's the Lib Dems who are under scrutiny, though, as that is where it is imagined the fault-lines of the Coalition will present themselves. Perhaps they are more vulnerable to a bit of secret recording than the Tories, by dint of being less savvy about these things, or maybe they're more prone simply because they're more easily approached. I daresay you could try a few fishing expeditions with Tories and you might find them saying things in private they'd rather not be saying in public. But no-one did. The Telegraph targeted the Lib Dems.
Cable is doomed, of course. He'll blunder around on the dancefloor on Christmas Day and make a fool of himself, and gradually his credibility will be chipped away at. It will be easy enough to do. But where are Labour in all this? Are they going to take a stand against the erosion of media plurality, or will they just meekly hide in the shadows because they fear Murdoch and his influence? Or will they just try to take advantage of Coalition confusion to hope that Lib Dems will jump ship in their direction? If so, the only person who will have taken a stand against Murdoch will have been Vince Cable, and he will soon be gone, and that will be that.
No related posts.